One of the least favorite items for most people is crafting a resume, it’s painful to be able to digest down your entire career (or life) thus far onto a single piece of paper. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be like that… I use my resume for a different purpose, getting my foot in the door. It was less important if I was able to thoroughly express all of my interests and desires, rather I ensured that I pointed out the items that they were specifically looking for. Once I had garnered that interview, I would be able to expand on items and make sure that they understood just how qualified I was for the position. There’s a ton of ways to look for a job, and I’m not saying that mine is the best… but here’s the step-by-step process that I used to get me interviews at all 5 companies I applied to, and job offers from 4 of them. To start, I decided early on that I wasn’t going to target the same companies as all of my friends from college. Most of them were looking to the largest of firms (Burns & McDonnell, Black and Veatch, HNTB, etc.) so I decided to niche down to handful of smaller firms that specialized in specific work and targeted them. Next, I did some deep research into the various companies. I looked for similarities between the various companies, specific project types, and size of the firms. My desire was to get it to the point that a single resume would be enough to get me an interview with all of the companies (I tended to be a little lazy back then). I looked at the advertisements the firms had out for engineers and picked up on the similar themes they mentioned. Those would make up the crux of my resume. After I started putting pen to paper, I quickly realized that I needed to fill out my resume some more since it had a little too much white space. After a good deal of time, this is what I ended up with:
Now let’s delve into the various items to figure out how and why I used them.
As opposed to mentioning what it was I wanted, I decided instead to focus on what I could do for their company. This became more of a summation of the rest of my resume, and was used as a hook. I can’t imagine how many resumes go across the desk of hiring managers, so I wanted to ensure that a brief look at my resume got them to the point where they wanted to know more.
Too few interviewees don’t have the design experience that I have coming right out of school, so this was the most important item for me to highlight. Working at smaller firms while in school I had a lot of varying experience, so I decided to break my knowledge into separate groupings to let them understand that I was more than their typical electrical engineer. From my previous research there were a smattering of design items that these companies were looking for from mechanical, electrical, chemical, and other engineer types. I figured that if I focused on highlighting my experience with the items that aren’t only electrical I’d really stand out. From my experience, it works. If the company doesn’t have to explain how these other items work to me, then they’ll save time and energy getting me up to speed.
Relevant Work Experience
The key word here is relevant. I spent some time during college working as everything from a line cook to a bartender, but there was no way those items were going on my resume for an engineering job. I had actually worked at over five different architecture and engineering firms, but I felt that hand-picking three was the perfect number. Again this goes to show that I have what it takes to jump straight into the company and do great work.
Obviously this is necessary for all soon to graduate engineers. The only thing you won’t see here, my GPA. I had changed majors and schools quite a few times, and wasn’t as diligent in keeping up on my coursework after I’d found out that I was making a change. My suggestion, if you don’t have at least a 3.5… don’t list your GPA.
When I was still in high school (I can hear “nerd” echoing in your head from here) I decided to get a certification prior to graduating. It took me spending a good deal of time outside of class studying my ass off to pass it, but it proved my dedication. I think it’s one of the paramount items that helped me being able to work at all of the architecture and engineering firms prior to graduating from college.
This was one of my late additions, but I think it was a good one. This showed that I had leadership potential (since I ran a meeting once a month for the MSPE), and cared about staying current in my field (IEEE membership). Other good items that would work here are sports, boy scouts, and anything else that shows there’s more to you than just work.
Since I was applying for jobs that focused a lot on Power Engineering, I decided that focusing on course work that highlights it would be best. It’s important to not list everything, but just throw in a few that are extremely relevant to the companies that you’re applying for.
I just want to say that I’d never recommend that someone not target their resume to what they’re applying to. Take the time, do the research, and make a special cover letter and resume for each job you’re applying to. Also, sticking to fewer fonts might be a good idea. When the “design” side of me looks at this now, I cringe a little. There’s a ton of help you can find out there to help you apply to jobs. I’ve found that some of the best items that I’ve ever run across cost a little money. If you’re hoping to make $60k+ a year, dropping a few hundred dollars to have your resume polished by a professional or for a resume crafting class is a good idea. Also, if you check at your school, I’m sure they even have some free resources. Just be leery of advice that’s not specific for engineer or a technical job, while it may be relevant for some professions, it doesn’t always translate well into a technical field. What do you think, anything else that I should have added to my early resume to make sure I got that 5th offer?